By Paul Gable
Hope House of Myrtle Beach is asking for help from the public in attempting to win a $50,000 grant from Pepsi Cola.
In its second year of existence, Hope House of Myrtle Beach is a relatively new initiative dedicated to helping solve the difficulties experienced by homeless students at Myrtle Beach High School.
Winning this grant would go a long way to helping the charity build a dormitory to house homeless students.
“I had no idea there was such a thing as a homeless high school student,” said Bryan. “I went up there thinking I would hear about one or two kids in difficult circumstances.”
What Bryan heard about was that there were 200-300 students at the high school who fit into the definition of homeless according to the McKinney Vento Act of the U.S. Congress.
“I learned there are a number of circumstances that can put you into the classification of being homeless such as living with a grandparent,” Bryan said. “After I heard all about the act, I asked ‘how many of these kids are really homeless’.”
Bryan found out from school officials that there were several dozen students who were really on their own with no roof over their heads or any idea of where the next meal was going to come from.
“Those kids are what I call in critical circumstances,” said Bryan. “Some were living in abandoned buildings, others in tents in a campground and some were staying with friends for several days at a time doing what they called ‘bumming nights or couch surfing’.”
Bryan wrote a story “Champions for Hope” for the local Myrtle Beach Herald. Then, he became directly involved in helping.
“The response from the community was amazing,” he said. “The day after the story appeared, people were coming into the high school with envelopes stuffed with money, clothes, food and school supplies to help these kids out.”
Out of that initial response, Hope House of Myrtle Beach was born. Bryan and co-founder Myra Starnes put a short range and long range plan into action.
“Each of these kids had a unique story and hearing the stories was a heart wrenching experience,” Bryan said. “We took care of immediate needs first such as medical and dental conditions, extra clothes, food and finding rides where needed.”
They were successful, with help from the high school administrators, in getting the students placed with families for the remainder of the school year.
“What we really found out is it’s not really an easy thing to help people, especially kids who aren’t of legal age,” said Bryan. “Most of them are juniors or seniors so DSS doesn’t really want to spend the time or resources because they are almost adults. There are also liability issues that have to be considered.”
Nevertheless, the immediate need of putting a roof over their heads and having basic needs provided for was accomplished.
“There is not one single reason these kids are in this position,” Bryan said. “Every story is unique, but they all had one thing in common – they understood education is the only chance they had and they wanted to finish school.”
The longer range goal of Hope House of Myrtle Beach is to formalize living arrangements by securing or building a house that can serve as a dormitory for the homeless students.
“Even while they live with other families, they have a unique set of circumstances,” said Bryan. “Guidance counselors and other experts say having them housed in a dormitory type of atmosphere will allow them to share experiences and have somewhat a place or room of their own.”
Until the dream of a dormitory becomes a reality, Hope House of Myrtle Beach continues to meet the immediate needs.
“This has become a humanitarian adventure for me,” said Bryan. “This is a situation that really hooked me.”
To demonstrate it works, ten of the students helped by the Hope House initiatives graduated from Myrtle Beach High School last spring.
“Of those 10, five are going on to college with scholarship help, two with full academic scholarships,” said Bryan. “These are kids who will not quit and are determined to improve their circumstances. It still brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it.”
Hope House of Myrtle Beach is a 501(c)(3), tax deductible, non-profit corporation.
You can help by using the following link: www.hopehouseofmyrtlebeach.org and click “vote.” You can vote once a day, every day till the end of December.